Last night I went to the ARC to see the Crusaders on Senior Night. After the game last Saturday I had high hopes for this game. I thought that Valpo would be playing for a shot at the regular season Horizon League title. A rough week made this game meaningless as far as the standings go. That is not to say that the game was not meaningless. This was senior night so naturally the game meant a little more. With the team knowing that they would be hosting a game Tuesday in the Horizon League Tournament they knew that it would not be their final game at the ARC, but it would be special nonetheless.
As I said in the title this was a game where nobody really seemed to be out for individual credit. The Crusaders were making the extra pass last night. Sometimes it was for the worse, but you like to see that kind of play. All three seniors were on the floor to start the game, and they pushed the lead out to 9-2 to start the game. UIC would close the gap, but Valpo would keep pushing it back up.
The only time I was worried last night was late in the game. Michael Rodgers was lost with what looked like a knee injury. Cory Johnson and Ryan Broekhoff were in foul trouble meaning they couldn’t play as tough on defense. Cory spent more time on the bench then he would have, and Ryan looked exhausted after playing much of the second half. The Flames would get the lead down to one a couple of times, but Valpo would answer right back. They really seemed to want this game.
I mentioned the injury to Mike Rodgers above. I have not seen anything on it yet, but it did not look good last night. Without a replay it is also hard to know exactly when it happened. He was involved in battle for a rebound on the offensive end when I think that he did it. He made it back down the court on defense, but when Valpo got the ball back he was taken out of the game. He did not leave the bench again until it was all over, and that was with the help of two people. I am not a doctor, but I have seen enough Purdue sports this year to think ACL. That would be a rough way to end your senior year. He provides a lot of energy off the bench, and it would be a blow for Valpo.
During most of the second half I sat with the family of sophomore Ryan Broekhoff. They were in town to see Ryan play games on Thursday and last night. One of the best parts about this blog is the people that I have met because of it. It has to be something to see your son play in person when you normally can’t. Of course they got into town just in time for the freezing rain that was coming down last night. After a rough game Thursday they can now go back to Australia happy after seeing the win last night. It was fun sitting with them and getting a little insight into Ryan. I look forward to seeing them the next time they are in town.
Play of the Game – I was sitting in my seat wondering what I would put here in the second half. UIC was making a comeback, and I thought back over the game to see if there was a signature play. I really could not think of one. As I was thinking about the play it unfolded right in front of me. Cory Johnson made a nice block on the other end of the court. He kept control of the ball, but was falling out of bounds. He found Ryan Broekhoff who brought the ball down the floor like a point guard. He found Howard Little in the middle who gave up a layup to reward Johnson who was hustling down the court. Cory took the pass and layed it in for two points. Nothing here was that spectacular. As a whole though it was a great series. It had hustle and unselfish play which I love. It was also a denial at one end, and two points for Valpo when they really needed them.
Gameball – I really wanted to give this to the entire Valpo team. Every player who stepped on the floor seemed to be all about the greater good. One player who stood out though was Cory Johnson. He was playing in his last regular season game at the ARC, and he made the most of it. He finished the game with 18 points, five rebounds, and three blocks. He did this despite being in foul trouble for much of the second half. He is fun to watch play. He is not pretty, but he is pretty effective. He reminds me a lot of someone I used to play with that also happened to be from Minnesota. He will be missed by Valpo.